Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 72, Issue 9, pp 1741–1757 | Cite as

Molecular basis of embryonic stem cell self-renewal: from signaling pathways to pluripotency network

  • Guanyi Huang
  • Shoudong Ye
  • Xingliang Zhou
  • Dahai Liu
  • Qi-Long YingEmail author


Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) can be maintained in culture indefinitely while retaining the capacity to generate any type of cell in the body, and therefore not only hold great promise for tissue repair and regeneration, but also provide a powerful tool for modeling human disease and understanding biological development. In order to fulfill the full potential of ESCs, it is critical to understand how ESC fate, whether to self-renew or to differentiate into specialized cells, is regulated. On the molecular level, ESC fate is controlled by the intracellular transcriptional regulatory networks that respond to various extrinsic signaling stimuli. In this review, we discuss and compare important signaling pathways in the self-renewal and differentiation of mouse, rat, and human ESCs with an emphasis on how these pathways integrate into ESC-specific transcription circuitries. This will be beneficial for understanding the common and conserved mechanisms that govern self-renewal, and for developing novel culture conditions that support ESC derivation and maintenance.


Embryonic stem cells Stem cell self-renewal Pluripotency LIF/Stat3 signaling pathway Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway 



We thank Dr. Chang Tong for his advice and critical reading of this manuscript. This review was supported by funding from NIH/NCRR grant (R01 RR025881) and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) grant (RN2-00938-1), and in part, by the 211 Project of Anhui University (10117700027, 02303203, J10117700060, Y0520374). The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guanyi Huang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shoudong Ye
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xingliang Zhou
    • 2
  • Dahai Liu
    • 1
  • Qi-Long Ying
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Center for Stem Cell and Translational Medicine, School of Life SciencesAnhui UniversityHefeiPR China
  2. 2.Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC, Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Keck School of MedicineUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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